The Secret to Dramatically Reducing Procrastination
by Alex Mathers — 3 min read
When I procrastinate, I feel the discomfort of knowing there are things I need to do that I don’t feel like doing in that moment. And so I do something else. I watch a video. I do a more ‘do-able’ task. I clear up the dishes. I go for another walk because walks are supposed to be good. Anything but doing the thing I said I’d do.
Here’s the problem with procrastination:
We can waste time because we frighten ourselves with the thoughts we hold of what we need to do. We see a monstrous mountain with craggy peaks and dark, uninviting valleys. We could fall to our snowy death. Why would we even start to tackle such a beast?
No wonder, then, that we dilly dally. We find a path of lesser resistance.
But do you see what you did there?
You tricked yourself out of doing what needed to be done because of the power of your thoughts. We procrastinate when we overwhelm our senses with heavy thoughts.
So, we need to take a step back.
There are a million and one gurus telling us their version of how to ‘overcome procrastination,’ but few of them get to the root of the problem.
Strip all of that stuff away. Delete everything you know about productivity and procrastination. It’s such a weird word anyway. Let’s pretend we never knew about it in the first place. Start fresh with the clean slate of the mind of an infant.
What’s real and true right now? This is what I always return to. There are two things:
We have thoughts and there is what we are aware of right in front of us. Two separate things. That’s all there is.
Given that our thoughts and our immediately perceived reality are all we have and all you and I ever will have, let’s play here. Not in the world of illusions. When we hold scary thoughts of what we need to do and what we should be doing, we’re going to feel crappy. Thoughts and emotions are inextricably linked.
This is what’s so crucial, far more so than any clever productivity hack or tool. When we don’t feel so good, we find ways to avoid feeling those things. That’s why we procrastinate.
Given we know this, what would make us less likely to waste time?
There are two things:
We need to be ok with not feeling comfortable in the present.
We find a way to enjoy ourselves.
And, in a sense, they are both the same thing. If you can get good at these two things, you’ve won the game. Most people are sucky at dealing with things like boredom and the resistance around creating things that could be seen by other humans.
We must expect whatever work we do, no matter how passionate you were about it last week, to start uncomfortably. Next, we make things easier, and more enjoyable.
We need to be real with what we CAN do in this moment.
Before, we were overwhelmed with thoughts of the enormous mountain. Replace that with an idea of the next step. That’s all you need to do.
As soon as we start thinking in inches, rather than miles, we get a taste for what enjoying ourselves could look like.
This is what I do:
I ask myself what are my priorities?
What is ONE priority I can do next?
What’s the smallest part?
How can I enjoy this?
Here’s what you really need to understand right now: everything, no matter how seemingly ugly the task is in your head––EVERYTHING––can be enjoyed. Even those taxes.
Do you think you’d procrastinate as much if you knew you could find a way to enjoy what you were doing?
Sitting through the initial pain of boredom will turn into enjoyment if you can hang in there. I guarantee it. That’s the secret at the heart of it all. You can make anything enjoyable by bringing your consciousness to it like light to dark.
Find a way to enjoy all that you do, one step at a time, and forget the concept of time.
You just levelled up.
One thing at a time, with enjoyment.
Use whatever tool, reminders and narrowing questions you want, but in the end, if you’re doing it right and you’re making life easy for yourself, you’re left with one thing:
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